In April, SC Gallery is presenting a duo exhibition by two emerging local artists with completely different artistic practices, they are Jay Lau, a print-making artist who recently graduated with a Master of Fine Arts from the Chinese University of Hong Kong, and Benny To, who graduated from Hong Kong Art School with a major in ceramics, with a special interest in archaeological artifacts. The two artists have come together in “N-O-C-I” to explore the ideas of destruction and rebirth throughout the society historically.
When Lau traveled across Europe, he was enthralled by the Renaissance marble sculptures after witnessing them with his own eyes. In particular, Michelangelo’s sculptures deeply moved him, as they are appropriated and replicated by artists across different generations out of context, and even reproduced as merchandise for commercial use. The original meaning and significance behind these marble sculptures are now lost, and Lau became curious and intrigued by the actual social and historical context behind them. Walter Benjamin, a German Jewish philosopher, had proposed that each work of art has an aura, a unique presence that only exists in a certain time and space (Jetzt und Hier). Therefore, no matter how many times a sculpture is being reproduced, its copy is still lacking the aura, and the feeling one may get from looking at the original piece, as it cannot be replicated. The existence of the reproduction of a work of art then diminishes the meaning and significance of the original piece, yet at the same time, it is giving it a new life, adapted in a contemporary context.
In this exhibition, Lau employs a new technique, by combining acrylic transfer and woodcut printing to replicate images of various sculptures, including the statue of Queen Victoria and the wax figure of Queen Elizabeth II etc., then situating them in ruins, construction sites, and even fictional settings that he fabricated through photo editing software. He wittily plays with the sculptures and their representations, to form a new set of symbols and hidden codes in between.
In Lau’s woodcut prints, he positions famous sculptures into indescribable scenarios and in response, Benny To uses a wide range of materials, such as ceramic, gold, silver and copper to imitate different magic weapons and relics.
To is an avid anime watcher, and he realized in anime, many of the magic weapons and relics used by the fictional characters are based off of actual ancient artifacts as a reference, then redesigned. Similarly, it goes through the process of deconstruction and rebirth like in Lau’s works. Through recreating ancient artifacts through his imaginative fictional archaeology, To reinterprets the relationship between history, religion and pop culture through his own lens. In this exhibition, he references the items passed on for generations of the Royal Family, and imitates the appearance of ancient relics and artifacts. His works are made from ceramic, silver and copper, and some parts even with actual gold. When visiting the exhibition, the viewers may feel as though they are visiting the ruins of the artist’s fantasy, looking for treasure. Also, To realized that people in ancient times developed religious mythology, in which they embed holy icons with symbols and hidden meaning. They created icons, totems and statues to bring their deepest desires and fantasies to life, converting these from intangible ideas, to tangible objects. Drawing inspiration from that, he added symbols and fractured texts of inscriptions to the fabricated relics, and guides the viewers to a world that looks and feels familiar to our own, but with fictitious history and background.
By exploring the duality between destruction and rebirth, imagination and reality, the two artists break the boundaries of time and space. SC Gallery invites everyone to join Lau and To to reflect on our contemporary society, while gaining insight to the relationship between our past, present and future.